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Masterton hearings come to an end

Interested parties have defended their submissions at the Marine and Coast Area [Takutai Moana] Act 2011 [MACA] hearings in Masterton this week.

After finishing its Masterton leg on Friday, the High Court case has now relocated back to Wellington.

The claims heard in Masterton cover the stretch of coast from the Whareama River mouth down to Turakirae Head at Palliser Bay – and extend 12 nautical miles out to sea.

Robin Potangaroa, claimant for Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tāmaki nui-a-Rua Settlement Trust, said it has taken a long time to reach this stage.

“It’s taken from 2017 to now for us till now for us to actually have a hearing,” Potangaroa said.

The Marine and Coastal Area [Takutai Moana] Act 2011 was created by the Crown to address the shortcomings of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004.

The highest form of protection for Māori rights and interests is the customary marine titles [CMT], which recognise the relationship of an iwi, hapū, or whānau with part of the common marine and coastal area.

The title can’t be sold, and free public access, fishing, and other recreational activities are allowed to continue in CMT areas.

Applications for CMTs and protected customary rights [PCR] were due in April 2017.

“People have supposedly had time to gather their evidence for their hapū claims, get their lawyers together, and have conversations with extended whānau and hapū,” Potangaroa said.

To negate CMT, Potangaroa said the seafood industry has argued that hapū ancestors didn’t have the ability to go more than a couple of kilometres out to sea, and when land was sold, the right to collect seafood was also sold.

“What we’re trying to prove is our ancestors did set aside fishing reserves. And we still kept land that abutted the sea, so we could always return and collect our customary rights,” Potangaroa said.

“I kindly told the seafood industry lawyer that the interests he represents were born on the back of Māori customary rights lost.”

The court had earlier heard from seafood industry representative Daryl Sykes, who affirmed that Māori have “always been closely involved in the business and activity of commercial fishing”.

Although there were seven claims addressed at the proceedings in Masterton, some hapū were present to support other hapū and groups within their applications.

Citing a past MACA trial in the Bay of Plenty where hapū of Whakatōhea were granted CMT and PCR in 2021 – and about which various appeals have since been filed following the decision – Potangaroa said a similar chain of events may follow in Wairarapa.

“After it’s finished, the judge will get around to making a decision and, like the Whakatōhea one, someone will go to the court of appeal because they don’t like it.”

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